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If You Snooze, Do You Lose?

Posted by Lauren Juarez on

If You Snooze, Do You Lose?

Most of us aren’t getting enough sleep, or at least, we don’t feel like we are. With full-time jobs, children, spouses, after-school activities, grocery shopping, etc., adulting isn’t nearly as cool as I thought it was going to be! With life’s every day stresses, it’s usually more appealing to tap the snooze button when your alarm sounds off in the wee hours of the morning than it is to pop up and get motivated for the long day ahead. And while most of us don’t have a choice as to when we have to wake in the mornings, otherwise our brains would wake us up instead, we do get to choose what time we set the alarm clock for and how many times we’re hitting that snooze button.

Do you sleep until the very last moment? Or do you hit snooze a few times? If you’re like me, you tap that little button at least once or twice, but is that a good thing? Let’s find out!

Coined by sleep specialists in the 1970’s, “drockling” is the official term for the act of drifting in and out of sleep in the early mornings. The general population has posed some very viable questions about snoozing, but the questions aren’t compelling enough to warrant the money it would cost to research it. Don’t get me wrong, sleep specialists have opinions on the subject, but they haven’t published much of their research. Based on what they have said on the subject, though, it doesn’t look good. Most sleep specialists believe that snoozing isn’t beneficial – in fact, most specialists believe it can make it more difficult for you to wake up. Don’t let that get you down though, as other researchers believe there are ways that snoozing can help – if it’sused properly. Here’s the breakdown…

Your body has several mechanisms to prepare you to wake up and start the day. One of these mechanisms raises your body’s core temperature, which makes you more alert and less sleepy. This happening typically takes places about two hours before your body feels ready to wake up. For those who aren’t getting enough sleep, hitting snooze can affect you more negatively as you’re more likely to fall back into the beginning of a sleep cycle. It starts the production of hormones that encourage a deeper sleep and being woken during this cycle is going to cause your body and mind harm. Your body is still in the deep-sleep range, when the air in your bedroom is seemingly freezing and your bed is cozier than ever. For those who snooze repeatedly, your brain and body become confused. Instead of recognizing the sound as “it’s time to get up”, your brain will begin to recognize it as more of a “just a couple minutes longer”, which can easily become habitual.

Your body needs time to wake up. When you hit snooze, and go back to sleep, your body and brain think “false alarm” and readily settle back into your warm, cushy, bed. When that dreaded alarm goes off again, your body and brain are jolted, resulting in the groggy, fuzzy-headed, feeling known as “sleep inertia”. The more you snooze, the more confused you get. It causes you to feel more out of it than you may have had you just gotten up the first time the alarm sounded. In addition, sleep research has found the sleep inertia can persist for up to four hours. Over time, your internal clock gets thrown off, making you more likely to get sleepy and awaken abnormally, further depriving you of sleep.

According to David Dinges, chief of the Division of Sleep and Chronobiology in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, “snoozing is not a great evil”. “The extra 10 minutes you get by snoozing can actually help to gently awaken the mind, rather than jolt it back to wakefulness.” Dinges says that if you aren’t falling totally back to sleep, but are using that time to slowly awaken, then it’s not so bad - but, if you’re so tired that you’re going to go right back to sleep, and your sleep cycle begins all over again, snoozing isn’t going to help. If it’s more like an insurance policy to allow you to waken more gently, it might not do any harm. It may even make things better if you happen to be jerked awake from a particularly deep sleep cycle to hit snooze, according to neuroscientist and sleep researcher, Jeanne Duffy. You don’t want to interrupt a REM cycle by snoozing, since you might kickstart a new sleep cycle process falling asleep again – but, if you woke up in the middle of a slow-wave sleep cycle (which is a deeper cycle), a brief snooze might give you a short time in a REM cycle that allows you to transition to being more awake.

In an ideal world, we’d sleep in accordance to our natural chronotype (aka our internal body clocks), allowing us to go to sleep and awaken at the time that best fits our own personal biological needs. Of course, some of us will always be early, or later, risers than others. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world so we have to make do with what we’ve got to work with.

Rafael Pelayo, MD, a sleep specialist at the Stanford University Sleep Medicine Center, recommends setting your alarm for the time you have to get up and then actually get up when it goes off, every day at the same time. The consistency may help you feel naturally sleepy at the end of the day, so you’ll feel compelled to go to sleep when your body needs you to, and then (theoretically) you can awaken without an alarm.

So, while hitting snooze repeatedly is probably not doing any favors, not all extravagances are bad. Taking a few minutes to stretch your body and your mind, allowing yourself to wake up in a more gentle fashion, and using the snooze button as an insurance policy isn’t going to do much harm – provided that you aren’t falling back into a deep sleep.

To snooze or not to snooze? That is the question and the choice is yours, my friends. Thanks for reading!